The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa on Amorgos Island

The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa on Amorgos Island

Every year, on November 20th and 21st, a special celebration takes place on the island of Amorgos, Greece. Its landmark Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa, patron saint of the island, celebrates, opening its doors from dusk till the next morning to pilgrims from all over Greece.

The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa is no ordinary structure. While it is true that all monasteries and other religious buildings are usually built amid a beautiful natural setting, as if praising God for this very beauty, Panagia Chozoviotissa still makes for a category itself. Any visitor who has stepped the more than 300 steps to its entrance can attest the unparalleled feeling of awe at the sight of this momentous structure, built in the vertical cliffs like an eagle’s nest, with only the azure sea lying 300 meters below.

The Monastery remains solid in this place for 1000 years now, housing the icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Chozoviotissa. The somehow awkward name derives from the name “Chozova”, an area in Palestine near Jericho, where the similarly built Monastery of St George is located. The icon of Panagia Chozoviotissa, a treasured work of art consisting of silver and gems, was originally created and kept there.

According to legend, it was the 8th century and the instability surrounding that time that drew the fate of the icon and ultimately of the island of Amorgos. It was the time of the advancing Arab conquest and of the movement of iconomachy, which saw icons being burnt or otherwise destroyed as symbols of idolatry. The icon was then considered to be in great peril. It was therefore put in a boat departing from Jaffa and was set adrift the Mediterranean. After its mysterious voyage, it arrived at the wild southern shores of Amorgos.

The area there was uninhabited at the time –whoever has seen the abrupt cliffs of southern Amorgos could not wonder why. Locals from nearby areas would even call it “demonotopos” (demons’ place). The rough, rocky terrain, prohibiting any cultivation or even cattle, was only dominated by the sound of wild winds. Yet, the floating icon arrived at these very shores and locals considered it a sign that this inhospitable land should house it.

Works started for a chapel to keep the icon at a place somewhere in the middle between the shore and the current location of the Monastery. However, as the story goes, every morning builders would find the work of the previous day destroyed. Unable to explain the phenomenon, they laboriously continued building, until one day, the mason’s chisel was mysteriously found much higher in the cliffs. Considering the finding as a divine indication of the spot to build, the chapel was constructed in that very corner of the unbelievably steep cliffs. It is the exact location of the Monastery church today, where the chisel can be still seen.

The original structure only consisted of the church that housed the precious icon. Over time, the spirituality of the location drew hermits who settled in the caves and niches in the surrounding area, gradually forming a community. A monastery was being born. And in 1088, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Comnenos issued a decree officially renovating the building and giving it the form we can see today.

An almost continuous, blinding white wall, supported by massive buttresses, forms the impressive façade, practically the only visual element of the structure. Few small windows, scattered here and there, dot the surface. A narrow eastern side creates space for the entrance, a tiny wooden door that forces visitors and pilgrims to bow upon entering. Nowhere in the whole place is the width more than 5 meters, as the hosting rock serves as the northern wall throughout the building. The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa is a sublime example of human genius and nature’s forces working together.

Today, hundreds of years after the arrival of the icon at the shores of Amorgos, the Monastery is considered one of the most important religious sites of the Aegean Sea. Three monks still keep it alive and welcome visitors all year round. Its celebration draws pilgrims from all over Greece, who flock in the little church and narrow spaces for the vesper, continuous night prayers and morning celebrating mass. Food is offered after the vesper and the morning mass, reminding the importance of the social function of religion. But perhaps the most overwhelming experience is witnessing the tranquil adoration in the early hours of dawn on November 21st, with the sun rising from the seemingly endless sea.

Hiking tourism in Greece is on the rise

Hiking tourism in Greece is on the rise

While tourism is growing rapidly and Greece is constantly affirming its position among the world’s prime destinations, voices of concern are spreading among professionals and societies regarding the impact this growth may have on local life and culture.

It is true that history and culture remain Greece’s strong assets, attracting millions of visitors every year. Nowhere else can you see the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens, nowhere else can you step on the sacred ground of Ancient Olympia, nowhere else can you trace the legendary roots of Alexander the Great. And when these are combined with one of the longest coastlines of pristine beaches in the world, it is no wonder tourists flow in large numbers.

Yet, this is only part of the unique blend Greece offers to visitors. A land continuously inhabited for over 6,000 years, it is no surprise its terrain is woven with endless kilometers of walking paths, connecting towns, villages, monuments and agricultural land. Particularly in remote areas, where development and road construction became a reality only a few decades ago, these paths are maintained in an excellent condition, still providing the means to travel between specific locations. The high mountains of mainland Greece and the less developed islands of the Aegean are prime examples of this reality.

So what does this mean for the future of tourism in the country?

1st Greek Trails Conference – Vytina, Arcadia, 4-5 November 2017

Fortunately, many people in Greece envision an alternative, sustainable model for touristic growth and actually do something about it. The walking paths are no longer considered a sign of being left behind but a precious feature of the Greek landscape. More and more municipalities, associations or simple groups of citizens get involved into maintaining existing paths or discovering and reviving old ones. Remote areas once abandoned are now crossed by locals and visitors seeking an authentic contact with nature, away from the paved roads and the noise of vehicles. Unique monuments, archaeological sites, monasteries or simple farmsteads are found on the way, adding to an experience for all senses and the spirit.

An important initiative that has just begun illustrates the trend for this specific form of touristic growth. The 1st Greek Trails Conference took place during the first weekend of November 2017 in Vytina, in the mountains of Arcadia, Peloponnese, bringing together representatives from all over Greece. The event was combined with the 3rd European Meeting of Leading Quality Trails that took over the following days. The organizers, the Social Cooperative “Menalon”, were the first in Greece to be qualified by the European Ramblers’ Association for the work done in Menalon Trail, a 75 klm route crossing the Arcadian mountains. Menalon Trail was the first Greek trail to join the list of “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” in 2015, and since then  two more trails in Greece have been added: Andros Routes, on the Aegean island of Andros, and Ursa Trail in the Epirus mountainous region.

During the works of the Conference, representatives of all three trails shared their experience of upgrading the paths in their area and incorporating them in the LQT network. This move has ensured meeting specific criteria regarding safety and quality in hiking and has boosted hiking in these areas not only by visitors but by locals too.

Other areas in Greece were represented at the 1st Greek Trails Conference, each one narrating a different story of paths, landscape, human labour and persistence.

Representatives from the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy were also invited, presenting the newly launched legal framework of hiking trail specifications. Despite its drawbacks, the framework is an important first step towards organizing and linking existing and new hiking paths in a commonly defined network, ensuring minimum standards of quality, safety and support for hikers. The initiative comes at a crucial moment, with Greece redefining its touristic strategy and seeking new ways to achieve the goal of “365-tourism” –meaning expanding the touristic influx beyond the traditional limits of summer season. It is even more crucial given the excitement created by record-numbers of visitors in Greece in 2017, and the dubious steps tourism professionals and authorities will follow in response. Large numbers of tourists are now setting a serious challenge and the following months will tell how responsibly this challenge is being faced. Under this point of view, the fact that both authorities and professionals have gathered and discussed the prospects of hiking tourism in Greece is already a big step.

Hiking on Amorgos Island

FindinGreece attended the 1st Greek Trails Conference, joined the walks and lectures and showcased the paths of Amorgos Island.

Amorgos is gifted with a dramatic landscape that captures visitors at first sight. Being part of the so-called “barren line” in the past, basic infrastructure didn’t expand on the island until the 1980’s. Both the electricity and road network were completed then, meaning that the ancient paths had formed the only means of transport until that time. To this day, significant areas of fields and some villages remain connected to the rest of the island only through trails, which means that locals still use the paths to move around, on foot or on the back of donkeys and mules. Their very recent –and only partial- replacement by road traffic and their continuous use for practical reasons, have ensured the maintenance of the trails of Amorgos at a very good condition.

Starting in 1997 with work by the Prefecture of the Cyclades and continuing today with the Region of South Aegean and volunteer work, 8 of the paths of Amorgos have been marked and signposted. These paths are also cleared and kept in a fairly good condition almost year round, allowing hikers to walk along the whole extent of the island without using the modern road network. The island’s most important sites are incorporated in this network, including the 1000-year old Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa, an impressive structure built in the cliffs 300 meters above the sea, as well as other historical sites and agricultural structures that hide a long history on their own.

To the above, we should add the breathtaking view to the surrounding sea and islands, visible from almost every step on the trails of Amorgos, as well as the mild weather that characterizes the Aegean all year round. It is no wonder then that visitors fall in love with the island and return for new hikes every year.

However, it is true that signposting still remains partial, and there are many more hiking routes that lie outside the marked network. While it is perfectly possible to walk around Amorgos nature on your own, there is so much history lying below the stones and inside the rural structures, that a local’s insight is highly recommended. FindinGreece offers hiking tours of varying duration and level of difficulty, incorporating hidden treasures and knowledge of local culture to a unique experience.

In few places in the world can you walk through history the way you can do in Greece; in few places can you experience mountains, sea, nature and culture the way you can do on Amorgos.

FindinGreece has completed its first season!

FindinGreece has completed its first season!

As October is approaching its end, so is the traditionally considered summer season for 2017. Here in FindinGreece, we are very pleased to share our impressions from this wonderful first season of ours and invite you to follow us on our continuing journey through space and time.
2017 has admittedly been a year of touristic boom for Greece in general. With visitor arrivals reaching record levels, it has been a challenge to ensure the authenticity Greece offers remains intact.
Well, it seems it does.

The natural beauty and dramatic landscape still make for fantastic hikes and other outdoor adventures. On the island of Amorgos, we’ve had the opportunity to guide visitors through centuries-old paths, allowing them to admire the pristine nature, surrounded by pure tranquility and an ever-shining sun. During the hotter summer months, our sea-related activities have been more popular, with travellers opting for snorkelling, diving, kayaking or paddling, enjoying crystal clear waters and a stark rocky background.
Back in the villages, it has been a pleasure sharing authentic instances of local life. Donkey rides, fishing trips, Greek dance classes, ceramic and mosaic classes, visits to the organic gardens and introduction to the richness of local herbs, cooking and pastry classes, even Greek language lessons, have all been enjoyed by many visitors and we are extremely happy to have played a role in their shaping unforgettable memories. After all, travelling is about experiencing and there is no better reward for us than seeing our visitors’ smiling faces when catching their own fish, tasting their own made local dish or wandering through the serene countryside on the back of the donkey.

From the bottom of our hearts, we’d like to thank all of you for making our dream come true this past summer. FindinGreece, Semeli and Alix, will continue offering unique experiences all year round and we hope to have the chance to share them with you soon.
All the best from the Greek islands!

An exciting summer season is ahead!

An exciting summer season is ahead!

As April is approaching its end, days are getting warmer and longer and summer feels ever closer. And what an exciting summer it seems it will be! Festivals, sport competitions and other events are already underway so have a look at the options available on the Greek islands for this season, pick what suits your interests best and start planning!

Naxos Trail Race – Naxos —– 30 April – 1 May 2017
Be part of the first Naxos Trail Race, taking place on the island from 30 April to 1 May 2017! Parallel events, such as hiking and gastronomy, are included in a very special program not to be missed.

ampelos_santorini4th International Symposium Ampelos 2017 – Santorini —– 12-14 May 2017

Dedicated to the Mediterranean Vineyards and the effect of climate change, this Symposium is held amid the highly productive wine country of Santorini, whose soil is famously fertilized by its volcanic ingredients.

6th Naxian Picasso Diathlon – Naxos —– 14 May 2017
A day of sports and fun taking place for the 6th consecutive year on Plaka Beach, Naxos. Join the race of running and biking for a fresh start of the season!

amorgos_trails_challenge_2017Amorgos Trail Challenge – Amorgos —– 20-21 May 2017
Take the challenge and discover the natural wonders of this unspoiled island through specially designed mountain running routes.
Amorgos Trail Challenge is part of the Cyclades Trail Cup, running on Naxos, Syros, Andros, Tinos and Donousa islands.

4th Tinos Running Experience 2017 – Tinos —– 9-11 June 2017tinos_running
A successful athletic event running for the 4th consecutive year, Tinos Running Experience invites athletes from Greece and abroad to three days of run and fun.

Supa Dupa Fly Festival – Santorini —– 9-13 June 2017supa_dupa_fly
Already feeling nostalgic of the 90s and 00s? After the success of Supa Dupa Fly 2016, the festival once more lands on Santorini with a series of parties and other music events. Start packing for four days and nights of RnB and Hip Hop revival!

Constellation of Amorgos Festival – Amorgos —– 19 June – 02 July 2017constellation_amorgos
Stay tuned for the full programme of this exciting series of events celebrating the beginning of summer on Amorgos Island -coming soon!

Up Festival – Amorgos —– 10 – 16 July 2017
One of the biggest music events in Greece takes place on Amorgos Island every July. Right under the stars, an impressive line-up of artists fills the air with music and good vibes.

XLSIOR Gay Festival – Mykonos —– 23-30 August 2017
Bringing together world famous artists and thousands of music lovers and friends of the international gay community, XLSIOR festival is where the heart of Mykonos beats in summer.

Gastronomy Days – Amorgos —– 17-24 September 2017
Amorgos Gastronomy Days will be running in parallel with the free diving competition “The Authentic Big Blue” and will be showcasing the richness of local cuisine.

The Authentic Big Blue – International Free Diving Tournament – Amorgos —– 18-24 September 2017authentic_big_blue_amorgos_2017
30 years after Luc Besson’s freediving cult movie “The Big Blue” was filmed in the waters of Amorgos, the first Authentic Big Blue international tournament brings the island in the centre of freediving activity once more.

Santorini Experience 2017 – Santorini —– 6-8 October 2017
Be part of the ultimate sport experience held in one of the top travel destinations of the world! Routes are designed in order to take participants through the island’s most beautiful settings, with the stunning background of the magnificent caldera and the volcano itself forming parts of the running and swimming events.

Stay tuned on our website as more events finalize their dates and schedules for 2017 summer season, including:

  • Naxos Festival
  • Domus Cultural Festival of Naxos
  • Naxos Mountain Bike Race
  • Mykonos Run
  • International Music Festival of Santorini
  • Gyzi Mansion Festival (Santorini)
  • Ifestia Festival (Santorini)
  • Santorini Jazz Festival
  • Tinos Festival
  • Tinos Jazz Music Festival
  • Tinos Arts Festival
  • Tinos Climbing Festival

The Bluffer’s Guide to Pascha

The Bluffer’s Guide to Pascha

The Bluffer’s Guide to Pascha: Greek Easter Translated

Pass yourself off as a local at Easter by learning the key customs, traditional dishes and how to say them all.


easter_blog

Where the technicolor, somewhat debauched Carnival ends, the 40-day religious fast, or nisteia begins. When strictly observed, the basically vegan diet forbids the consumption of olive oil on Wednesdays and Fridays and all animal products (apart from shellfish) throughout. The fast concludes in the early hours of Easter Sunday, when humble lentils, grains and the like are replaced by shiny red eggs and creamy offal soup. Nisteia is observed several times in the Greek Orthodox calendar, however the 40 day period leading up to Easter is by far the longest and strictest.

Holy Week

Megali Evdomada or Holy Week is the seven days leading up to Kyriaki Tou Pascha, or Easter Sunday. Pascha is Greece’s most momentous holiday, equivalent to Christmas in the UK or US, as it honors the divine triumph of Christ over death and earthly suffering. For the devout, the week preceding it is filled with religious services in church and time-honored traditions at home. Many of the foods enjoyed on Easter Sunday are prepared during this week – koulouraki biscuits are made on Holy Tuesday, Easter eggs are dyed red (to symbolize the blood of Christ) and tsoureki (a sweet bread) is prepared on Holy Thursday.

Read the full article on the Holy Week and Greek Easter >>>

A fishing trip at Amorgos

A fishing trip at Amorgos

It is 6:30 am, Sunday morning on Amorgos Island. Early spring, still chilly at dawn, but you can already feel the summer approaching. Clear sky, calm sea. Nobody is seen around at the quiet port of Aegiali where we meet to drive across the island to the small dock of Xylokeratidi in Katapola. Half hour later we are there, exchanging wishes for a beautiful day with fishermen that are just beginning work under a glorious sun rising behind the mountains. Giannis, our fisherman, quickly docks his boat “Kapetan Nikitas” and welcomes us on board. We are about to set off on our first fishing trip together and we are very excited.

Giannis and Loukas, his crew, have spent the last few hours throwing paragadia at sea. Paragadi (longline fishing) is a special kind of fishing, involving a good deal of tedious work in exchange for first quality and significantly sized catch –when it happens. Giannis and Loukas have painstakingly baited dozens of hooks during the past evening, before throwing five paragadia (main line threads of them) at sea just before dawn. They must be exhausted but we wouldn’t be able to tell from their smiling faces and excitement to explain all their work and equipment to us. The sun is slowly rising and warming us up, the sea is comfortingly blue and calm and it feels like it’s going to be a great day.

We head west, exiting the bay of Katapola. Soon after, we stop to pick up the first paragadi to the boat. Giannis and Loukas coordinate their moves perfectly, collecting the thread and rearranging the hooks. The bait has gone from most of them, probably by currents, but so far no fish seems to have approached. The two men work silently as the thread reaches its end, with only a few comber fish caught on its hooks.

Continuing with the rest of line threads, things start looking more promising. First a 2 kilo and then a 5 kilo seabream appear shining from the depths of the sea bringing wide smiles on our fishermen’s faces.  A little bit later, a happy cry from Giannis brings all looks down the bottom. We can hardly see any sign of movement or even different colour down there yet but Giannis and Loukas are sure: it is a fish and it is big. A few moments of excited expectation culminate with the appearance of the fish: an 8 kilo dentex, elaborately caught in the net of Loukas once its hook reaches surface. Our fishermen are obviously proud and happy, posing for pictures with their catch.

But it isn’t over yet. We are excited and greedy. We want to see more. As hours go by and we appreciate even more the load of work and effort put by our fishermen, we feel like the trip is still not giving the return due. And our thoughts come true. Another two 4-kilo seabreams reach the surface and more proud pictures and smiles follow before Loukas collects the last thread around its buoy.

Relaxed and satisfied, our captain deviates towards the remote beach of Vlychada, well hidden in a closed bay at the north of Katapola. We are amazed at how there are still places we just begin to discover on this seemingly small island. There is no road or path reaching the beach of Vlychada and only few boats make it here when weather permits –very rarely in summer. It seems it is our very lucky day today and as we approach the sandy beach, we can’t help but closing our eyes facing the sun, listening to the familiar sound of light waves gently lapping the shore. Turquoise blue shallow water sparkles below us and the warmth of the sun once more reminds us that summer is just around the corner.

It is almost midday when we enter back at the bay of Katapola. Terraced slopes covered by grass and flowers surround us as the villages of Katapola appear ahead us. A long day for our fishermen is approaching its end –but still a lot of work is awaiting them after a much wanted coffee break at the port. Fellow fishermen and villagers await us at the dock, curious to find out what the catch has been today. Smiles and jokes follow at the sight of the big fish, which are quickly weighed and loaded on the van to find their way to the market.

It is sunny, warm and peaceful. A lovely family atmosphere shared with locals on a beautiful Sunday morning, heralding more bright occasions during the following months.

Get in touch

 


Adults: Children:

Activity interested in:

×
Get in touch

 

Number of children:
Number of adults:



×
Κάντε κράτηση τώρα

 


Ενήλικες: Παιδιά:

Δραστηριότητα:

×
Get in touch

 


Adults: Children:

Activity interested in:

×
Κάντε κράτηση τώρα

 


Ενήλικες: Παιδιά:

Δραστηριότητα:

×
Get in touch

 


Adults: Children:

Activity interested in:

×
Κάντε κράτηση τώρα

 


Ενήλικες: Παιδιά:

Δραστηριότητα:

×
Get in touch

 

From:  
Until:  

Number of children:  
Number of adults:  



×